Ashley’s education includes, her parents’ divorce, her stepfather’s mental health issues, her mother’s angry abuse, her grandmother’s alcoholism and living every day in one of the highest violence and crime neighborhoods in our city.
Three+ adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), before the age of eight.
Brain science informs us that Ashley, and millions of others like her, won’t “just get over it.”
Researchers find that unaddressed stress and fear from developmental trauma change the physical architecture of the developing brain.
The changes to the physical brain damage children’s memory systems, their ability to think, and to organize multiple priorities (“executive function”), and hence to learn, particularly literacy skills.
Developmental trauma can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, a missing parent (due to separation, divorce, incarceration, death), living in a household with substance abuse, violence, or mental illness and more.
It frustrates Ashley as much as it frustrates us.
It’s been urgent.
Now, this year Ashley endured a shocking, high stress, high fear home “invasion” by police with loud radio dispatchers and high-intensity red-lights spinning and flashing, all at one a.m.. Ashley’s deepest personal scars came from seeing and hearing the horror of her stepfather break her little brother’s leg with a baseball bat that night…
Ashley came to school the next day.
Ashley is not unusual.
Two out of 3 children have some level of trauma-impact. Experts describe it as a ‘national crisis’, an ‘epidemic’. Yet, it’s the “elephant in the [class]room!”
When calm, Ashley can be bright and engaging.
In school, however, Ashley is a year behind. She struggles to focus during reading class. She alternates between silent “spaciness” and aggressive vocal opposition.
All typical measures of academics drop significantly from impacts of developmental trauma, based on a plethora of research (links below): GPA down, ‘standardized test’ scores down, IQ scores down, non-cognitive skills down, attendance down, graduation rates down.
Ashley lives in an urban area where violence, trauma and ACE rates are even higher than the shocking rates in suburbia . Children of color comprise 90% of her school. So one measure does go up: her district’s achievement gap.
Still, we look in the wrong places to understand Ashley and the millions like her and their education “results”: comparisons to “national standards” (with unequal local funding), and meaningless ‘standardized (SES) scores’.
Ashley’s poor academic results directly reflect her ongoing and unaddressed, developmental trauma.
Making Ashley feel safe, physically, emotionally, socially and more is crucial. Ashley’s academic results will continue to suffer and will probably decline further until we help address her fears.
Individual “504 Plans” are not a solution, given the wide scope and the systemic changes required.
Schools are not trauma-informed.
Experts describe childhood trauma as a ‘national crisis’, an ‘epidemic’. Meanwhile, Ashley is losing her right to equal access. Equal Access to an education.
It’s morally wrong.
Trauma-Informed adults CAN make a difference.
Get Informed. Click on links below.
This is only Part 1 of Ashley’s struggle with Trauma’s damage.
Cognitive impacts are only 1 part of trauma’s damage. Neurobiology reveals that nature also fuels social hyper-vigilance, a second equally powerful impact on Ashley.
The social and behavioral impacts may be worse…
CLICK HERE for Part 2, the social part of Ashley’s struggle. “Nowhere to Hide: Ashley’s “Normal” Education?” , Part 2.
Toxic stress changes brain architecture CLICK HERE (2 minute video)
.Exposure to Violence: Psychological and Academic Correlates (to GPA) CLICK HERE
Violence Exposure, Trauma, and IQ and/or Reading Deficits (IQ: Wechsler Primary and Preschool Scale of Intelligence and also the Test of Early Reading Ability, second edition) CLICK HERE
Influence of childhood maltreatment on adolescent academics (GPA and attendance) CLICK HERE
Washington State Department of Early Learning: Disruptions in Developing Executive Function CLICK HERE
Helping trauma-impacted children learn CLICK HERE
“Like” us at “Trauma-Informed Schools” on Facebook
Look for other parts of this series “Nowhere to Hide” on LucidWitness.com for more information.
“Nowhere to Hide” series overview
“Nowhere to Hide” series links
Each separate, individual article in the series focuses on a single component of the workings of developmental trauma, via real life examples in short “60 second” soundbites, akin to “Public Service Announcements” (PSAs). They are designed for sharing in social media networks to grow public awareness.
The children’s experiences in the vignettes are unvarnished. Their traumatic responses may trigger painful memories.
“PSA” Links for social media
Nowhere to Hide: Maria; Fight, flight or freeze
Nowhere to Hide: Andre’s Fear; What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
Nowhere to Hide: Jamar’s Hyper-arousal
Nowhere to Hide: Roberto’s Dissociation
Nowhere to Hide: Danny’s Memory
Nowhere to Hide: Ashley’s “Normal” Education? Part 1
Nowhere to Hide: Ashley’s “Normal” Education? Part 2
More to come
“Like” us at “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook
Please share a PSA link to help grow public awareness of the impacts of developmental trauma. There are so many of us who’ve never heard of the overpowering life-long impacts.
“Peek Inside a Classroom” series overview
The second original series, “Peek Inside a Classroom”, provides much more detailed looks inside my classroom, primarily focused on specific students: Jasmine, Danny and José.
Other children are captured in broader looks at education reform concepts: “Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?” and “Effective Education Reform”, co-authored with Sandra L. Bloom, M. D..
“Peek Inside a Classroom” series links
Peek Inside a Classroom: Jasmine
Peek Inside a Classroom: Danny
Peek Inside a Classroom: Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm?
Peek Inside a Classroom: Effective Education Reform (with Sandra Bloom, M.D.)
“Click for Resources…” series overview:
“Click for Resources” posts are the theory and research behind the narrative posts in “Nowhere to Hide” and “Peek Inside a Classroom”.
Each post in “Click for Resources “ is divided in three parts:
1) general press articles,
2) Research Journals or academic papers
3) social media, often with video.
“Click for Resources” series links:
1. Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Studies: CLICK HERE
2. Impacts of Childhood Trauma: Overview CLICK HERE
Click for Resources: Social Media on Impacts of Childhood Trauma
Click for Resources: Journal Articles on Impacts of Developmental Trauma
3. Trauma-Informed Schools CLICK HERE
4. Trauma-Informed Social Services CLICK HERE
5. Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice CLICK HERE
6. Trauma-Informed Public Policy CLICK HERE
7. Childhood Trauma Training and Tools CLICK HERE
8. Book and Publication selections CLICK HERE
9. #800 phone numbers CLICK HERE
Developmental trauma, still “the elephant in the [class] room” for many adults.
“Like” us at “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy” on Facebook